I'm sitting in the cafe of the Camden Arts Centre having just partaken of a chocolate cake and a cappuccino. It's nice in here, a refuge from the windy weather outside. Robin is out the back having a smoke as he is still a snout-cast whilst I'm sitting here, in the warm, reminiscing. Whenever I come here I'm always reminded of the fact that I use to model here a long time ago, before the building was modernised. Nothing glamorous about the modelling though; I was an artists' model. It's not easy job, even though you're not really doing anything. You have to be working with an understanding teacher; one who is not going to make you hold a difficult pose for too long, if that's what happens it can be really torturous. That's what finally made me decide to stop doing it. Still, another life another place!
So, the reason why I'm here today is because we came to see the last day of an exhibition curated by Ben Rivers. He had four of his own films showing but it was the work he had chosen, work that resonated with him, that we enjoyed the most. This curated collection, Edgelands, included two pieces that stood out for us; one being La ville pétrifiée, an exquisite painting by Max Ernst, which was difficult to photograph. I got the image below off the internet. It's not bad, but like our photograph is does not pick up the nuanced colour and texture of the moon or the richness of the pinky reds in the frottage section. I have never seen this painting 'in the flesh' and for me it was totally captivating. So unique, so mysterious and other-worldly. The moon, unusually placed dead-centre, totally dominates and is like an eye looking back at you. It was worth coming here just to see this painting alone.
La ville pétrifiée
The second work that we were captivated by was called Undiscovered Country Or How I Found Myself Hiding In The Backwater 2015, by Jeremy Butler. This work, on first glance, would be easy to dismiss as a mess. However, on closer inspection we found we were looking at a scaled-down junk yard, complete with: corrugated hut and graffiti, mini black bin liners and loads of rubbish scatted over an area one could describe as a dumping ground... all miniaturized. It was so intriguing, so textural, so clever and paradoxically quite beautiful because the colours were quite autumnal and rusty. This piece, about a metre square, was then hung on the gallery wall. I felt there were many close links with the Ernst piece, such as the mysterious quality of the landscape. Both works held our attention for quite some time.
Sections of Undiscovered Country 2015
I could see why Ben Rivers had chosen these two in particular, although there were additional relevant pieces in the room. His film work reveals his interest in environments that are different, extreme, alienating and unique; how people mould into these environments and the behaviours that are spawned from these relationships. He describes this as an interest in the borders and margins of society. We got a bit sleepy in the darkened rooms especially when the films and sounds were a bit hypnotic and then we had to go back to the cafe to wake ourselves up and ingest more caffeine.